Branko Santo

Business, education, achivement, life

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4 reasons I hate articles with numbers in the title!

The world of information has gone totally berserk, it’s all about the eyeballs, click-troughs and revenue per 1.000 visitors. One of the products of this tabloidization of the large websites are the articles with numbers in the title. 7 ways to get up early; 10 reasons why you should not go streaking; 1 secret to success.

Here are my 4 reasons why I hate such articles:

  1. Research shows more people click to read such articles, more eyeballs, more advertisements shown blah blah blah
  2. How the hell do they get to exactly that number and why is there never 4, 6, 8 being used? You will see 1, 5, 7, 10 quite often. Statistics should not discriminate!
  3. Why don’t they actually provide some research about what they are talking about? 70% of the people don’t read the articles but just the headings and take it as the divine truth!
  4. How come everyone has a list of things which successful people do and we have so few of those in the world?

 

And they never make a conclusion!

Interview question of the day (4): Readers choice!

Recently I asked by friends and contacts on FB/LinkedIn/Twitter what were the hardest questions they got on an interview so here are 2 :)

 

Question: Are you an idealist?

Who could ask it: I don’t think HR is asking this it must be the hiring manager or a future colleague trying to catch you wrong footed

What they might be asking: First thing that pops into my mind is to see how hard you might be to work with. I like idealists in the pub as we always have a good chat or an argument. Not sure how idealistic people fit into the work place. If there is a job to be done, and it is nothing out of the ordinary and it is against ideals, are you going to do it?

How I would answer and what I would want to achieve: I would be looking to answer in a very specific way. You need to know very precisely what the job is about. Then you form your answer to the job and question. Me answering while applying for a pet store manager: “Certainly I am very idealistic. I have been a member of PETA for 10 years now and have been a part of many charity activities to help save animals from cruelty.” Now if I said I had been arrested for breaking into a testing facility to release all the rabbits that wouldn’t really look good wouldn’t it? You shouldn’t be hiding your ideals but make sure that your interviewer know you will not bring it to work if it is not work related.

 

Question: How do you measure success?

Who would ask the question: HR maybe if you are interviewing for a managers position, mostly your direct manager.

What they might be asking: If I had to guess, I would say the main question is about you understanding how you are going to be measured. A close second would be to deduce your ambition and need to do a job right depending how you position your answers.

What I answer and what I want to achieve: This is a lovely question to get on an interview because it gives you a lot of room to work with. First move would be to show my understanding of managing upwards (talking to your managers) by saying that goals should be always set by management in cooperation with the people doing the job. Now you go into attack mode “And goals set by management need to be measurable and clearly defined so that we can support the team/company in OUR goals.”. Then you go on to talk about how unfair it is to speak only in metrics as is usual in big companies due to administrative needs and to make sure all the processes are honored. And to cap it off “I am perfectly happy being measured for performance based on a certain metric, but it never tells the full story. For me a happy customer is my measure of success, and a happy customer stays with us and spreads the word.”

You can perhaps use SMART  goals in the discussion. I am not a big fan as they are too generic and people get stuck in the process too much. If you are brave enough you could say something like “I can feel success in my stomach when going home from work, it is a fantastic feeling when you put in a good day at work and achieve a lot.”

 

Interview question of the day (3): What 3 strengths/weaknesses would describe you?

Question asked by: Usually HR, but in many cases line managers

Question: What 3 strengths/weaknesses would describe you?

Variation: Tell me 3 of your strengths/weaknesses?

What are they asking: They want to see how familiar you are with yourself and will cross reference it with the rest of the interview to see if there are discrepancies in what you are saying. I am sure you can shoot out 3 strengths pretty quickly but if you are not prepared you will get stuck on the weaknesses part. Somehow I feel the need to tell you not to lie, the truth will come out sooner or later. For any weakness that you have and note it upfront you get a bonus point for being aware of it and putting it out there.

What people answer: Answers will mostly consist of saying their strengths and weaknesses and stop there. With further probing the interviewer will get some more information from the candidate.

What I answer and what I want to achieve: Every strength I say is accompanied by the explanation why I feel it is a strength and how I use it to my advantage. Example: “I am really good in quickly taking in a large amount of information, probing and making a decision in a tight spot. This is really helpful in a case of escalation where I am unfamiliar with the incident and need to support someone from my team to support the customer.” On the other hand weaknesses you have to explain in a different manner. If you can’t say a weakness it makes the interviewer doubt you, either you are hiding something or you are unaware of yourself. What you need to do is clearly state your weakness and explain why you feel it as such and what do you do to mitigate the damage it creates. Example: “In moments of lower workload I tend to procrastinate a lot, this really is something that I have been fighting for a long time with. I try and keep aware of my schedule and when I see a slow period coming up I would assign myself additional projects or tasks that are perhaps outside of the usual work we do but would help the team. This way my time is used for the teams benefit and I can step out of the usual role and give myself some variation to the daily job. And it really is strange how one weakness has actually made me better in critical times as I got used to having short time frames precisely due to the fact that I have procrastination problems.” Now here I made a connection to my strength and showed that I am aware of the problem which is a pretty big problem if you don’t monitor and react on it. But with a clear plan and awareness this shows I am in control, most of the time. :)

 

Weaknesses or un-tallents are nothing to be ashamed of, we all have them. Rarely will we find a superb all rounder with no weaknesses, and that of itself might be a weakness :)

Mathematics of life…

It should be 100% clear to all of us that math is an exact science. And something that I have been working on in my head for the last couple of years is a mathematical calculation for improvement of life. :)

Edit: I failed so bad in making this article mathematical but still its written so you can read it :)

Should be fun to do and very useful for those of us who are obsessed with numbers. First I take two premises:

  • Regular exercise and healthier feeding habits will improve the length and quality of our life
  • Regular intellectual effort will keep our mind fresh, help us stay sharp and improve our quality of life

So my expectation is that if you take your time to eat healthy and exercise each day you will spend an extra 2 hours a day. You are already spending some time for these activities so I am just adding those two hours to the average time I spend now. Let’s say we do it like this 365 days a year it comes down to 730 hours a year or ~46 days a year of waking time which is about 1/8 of your total waking time. Now to make this worth it we have to see if we can raise life expectancy by as much. Cardiovascular disease is the biggest cause of death worldwide. And not only will it kill you fast, it will degrade the years of life you have. If you want your years after 60 to be mostly sedentary and moving around to doctors than you have nothing to worry about.

So if we think about it we want to live and live a decent life worthy of a human being. Now let’s look at some other benefits of eating well and exercising regularly. As years pass the amount of people staying in shape diminishes rapidly and their ability to have an active social and sexual life goes down the hill. So you can have exponentially more social and sexual encounters (no it is not a joke, it is a valid argument). Professionally a person in good shape exudes confidence and power so you are bound to have a more successful career by staying in shape.

 

Regarding the intellectual effort, it is just more of the same. A lot of people die (physically or mentally) because they stop fighting and they stop fighting because they stop thinking. Reading (and not copy/paste sex novels) is the single easiest thing you can do to get yourself moving. It will give you new ideas or revitalize the old ones. Reading will help you have a wider field of interests to talk about (+1 for social life), it will ward of dementia and lower your idle time. And I can tell you idle time for me is when stupid ideas come around. Reading is definitely also good for your career, you could do that degree you always wanted with part time studies or you can improve a skill you need to go one step further. If you read 2 hours a day and at a slow pace of 20 pages an hour you would have read around 14.000 pages or 46 (forty six) 300 page books A YEAR! Be honest you haven’t probably read this much in last 5 years (or even 10). I read a lot (or so I think) and I probably don’t read more than 15 books a year. There is no clear math here but more of a guesstimate. Let’s say your income will be 20% higher for this very reason. You might be able to afford those trips that you always wanted to take, or that cabin in the woods. Or you can take that expensive class you never could afford. With 20% more, life could get that much better.

 

Now this is nothing new, we all know this but how do you realistically do this with all the obligations and limitations that we have in our daily lives? I don’t know, but I am sure going to try and find out.

Contrary to popular opinion, the biggest enemy is YOU!

Well at least your own biggest enemy is always you. But then when you get into a fight with yourself how can you win? You are at least as good as you if not better. :)

When you run into an issue, which part of you is the first to respond? It is your emotional side or the subconscious side. That is genetically how we are built, fight or flight, survival instincts, nothing else. And this part of us is what is stopping us from making that one extra step to really become great in what we want. That one step takes us over the border, the border of our comfort zone. You step off from solid ground into a swamp where each move can be harmful, but it energizes you in a way that solid ground can’t.

But if we don’t even get to use our reason since our emotions are the first to the scene, how do we beat this situation. Trust someone else. Have that person who will look from the side and tell you to take that one step, and you will take it because you trust them. Now it is not a problem of genetics and reason, it is only important to have a reasonable person you can trust.

You might be your biggest enemy but have a friend who will tell you to go for it and cheer you on. There is no way you can loose, as you already won if you can have faith in someone like that.

In motion, between motions or dead

It has been a long time since I had 3 full weeks of not working. I can’t really remember if there was a time since I started working in 2001 that I didn’t work at a job, working project, development project or anything for a whole 3 week period. This is freaking scary but it is how the world functions.

Sharks have to swim (or so the story goes) or they will sink to the bottom and die. So if you want to be a predator you have to be constantly on the move. It is not much different with the business world. If a company stops pushing the limits of what it can do, it will get eaten by the faster more agile competitor and we all know there is no lack of those around.

Being concentrated on one goal is fantastic, but what then? This is most apparent with people going into retirement. They have been working for so long that perhaps they never expected to stop and didn’t make any plans what to do with their time. Having an extra 8-10 hours a day is a big hole to fill. And sometimes we might be so slow to pick up a new goal, or just to raise the sails and start moving to anything, that mentally it starts affecting us. People are very comparable to physical bodies. If you take the 2nd Newton’s law and add some constant resistance it is how people function. We can get into a mode of operations that is great and we are achieving a lot but over time the resistance slows us down to a grind (and eventually a stop) unless we add impulse over time. So we need to re-energize  our efforts and make sure that we don’t ever stop. Because if we stop it takes an enormous amount of willpower or a dramatic event to get us going again. If you were ever doing well on a diet and then stopped, if you ever studied hard for months and then somehow slowed or if you just never could get off the the ground with something that you wanted to achieve. This is how it feels, remember those lost efforts, they should be your fuel.

So what to do and how to save ourselves? Always have multiple goals, multiple needs, have a hobby you would really want to dedicate more time to, have that side business or have a lover :) They all keep you on your toes. We can rest when we need to rest but we can never stop.

Interview question of the day (2): Why are you leaving your current company?

Question by: Pretty much everyone in line

Question: Why are you leaving your current company?

What are they asking: What were your relationships like in the current company? Did you have a problem with your management line? Was the job stimulating enough? Is there a problem you cannot deal with in a company? Here the interviewer wants to see if there is a certain pattern of behaviour that might disqualify you from going on in the interview. There is no right answer here but the question is a minefield for possible straight off end of talks.

What people answer: The job wasn’t interesting enough. My boss didn’t like me. I have the lowest salary in the team. There are no promotion possibilities. They always promote the wrong people.

What I answer: I have researched market compensation for my current position and have found that my remuneration was in a substantial way under the market average. With this in mind I talked to my management and pointed this out and asked about possibilities to bring my compensation to a market level and they noted that with the current company situation they do not believe they can achieve this in the coming 1-2 years.

What I want to achieve: Here I am saying it is about the money. Some would say that is a risky plan but all of us understand that we work for money and that no fringe benefits can replace cold hard cash (when there is enough money already than yes benefits are good). And with showing that I brought this to my management shows that I have no problem in communicating issues and in talking to authority figures.

What do you think?

Interview question of the day (1) : Why should we hire YOU?

Question by: HR

Question: Why should we hire YOU?

What are they asking: Here I would say HR is first looking at your confidence level. Your reaction to the question should never be a surprise. Problem most people have here is not really knowing what they are being interviewed for. When going for an interview I make sure I gather as much information about the position as possible and get to know the company so I can extrapolate what they might want and need. After the confidence and knowledge about the position they will want to know exactly what they are asking. What is your advantage for the company compared to other hypothetical candidates?

What people answer: I am a hard working professional, goal oriented and able to work under a lot of pressure. I have worked as X for Y years and had Z results.

What I answer: The reason you NEED to hire me is that the job requires X which I have been doing for Y and with Z results. You also want to have somebody who is good/has experience with X and this is what I was doing at Y company for Z customers. What you might not be considering is that with X, Y and Z you would want someone who can really do Q and I am a guy who has experience with that too.

What I want to achieve: I want to get them thinking how they need me first. With the research I do on a position I can have a couple of things I am good at ready and seem either more prepared (if they think I was preparing) or that much better (if they don’t think I was preparing). After that I want to show my understanding of the role by extrapolating an additional need of a skill I have and this would showcase also my future thinking.

What do you answer on such question?

Training philosophy…

I recently read somewhere that the best way to train (in a non professional manner) is regularly :) And that makes sense to anyone when you tell them. Now keeping up with regular trainings is really hard, there is always something else you “need” to do, or why you just “can’t find the time”. This is bull shit :) (yes I am back to cursing to drive my message again!) There are definitely without a shadow of a doubt perfectly good reasons why not to train on any single day! Noooow what is the single, simple, effective trick to drive you to train regularly?

1. Its ok to miss a training day.

2. Its not ok to miss two training days.

No way is this going to work you say? I tried it, it makes sense, it works for me (for about the last month that I am back to running). Why I think it works is very simple, you don’t want to miss two training days but your brain is looking for continuation of not training. So just remember these two points and that is it, repeat as mantra and no issue.

This brings us to the bigger issue. There are so many things that we stop doing and give up because we miss it once, twice, gone. It is a repetitive problem for most people. I was writing for like 6-7 days straight, weekend came, I forgot and than I was thinking, one more day won’t make a difference. Boy is this like the worst thing you can say to yourself. Perspective here is causing the issue, you need to have a short term binary memory in this case. Very simple algorithm at work…

If  yesterdays article is written; Is it ok to skip today = Yes; Otherwise = No

Don’t be like, hey I missed 5 days 6th is not important. Or hey I was writing for 10 days straight I deserve a couple of days of rest. No you don’t! One is ok, two is not!

These days I am using this philosophy as much as I can, although I wasn’t writing for some time, I am back. The physical exercise I try to follow the same rule, no two days break (unless planned as is the case now due to soreness). And now I need to tell you why all this is like this. And why you should just keep plowing on! To plow is a good reference word since if you don’t plow at the right time, in the right way and accompany it with the right watering and feeding cycles you will ruin a whole year of crops. With training or studying or working on something on the side there are no issues like this in most cases. If you drop a training it will not destroy all your effort that you have put in perhaps in the last 3 months. If you don’t study for one day, it will not fall through, you will just continue tomorrow. This is so intuitive and logical that it is totally crazy that we don’t follow it. We should all blame ourselves for being whiny weak people we are, not being able to weather the storm, right? Nobody can take all the storms in their stride, it is a fact of life that we are not always on our top game. So the thing is you should come tomorrow and play again, losing today is not a problem, and it should never put you down. When tomorrow is today and you put in those kilometers (or the pages) without any issues you will not even wonder how you couldn’t do it yesterday. That was because it was just a bad day, and they don’t come in twos.

Lot’s of rambling here so i am pretty sure I am in for a rework of the article, but for now it should be pretty good :)